Renewable energy working for women
She is one of the electricians at the Kakamas Hydro Electric Power (KHEP) plant on the outskirts of this remote Northern Cape town, and her boss, Johan Benade, agrees that she pretty much runs the show.
Vania’s knowledge of the community means that she’s ideally placed to also coordinate the plant’s social and enterprise development work. Since KHEP’s revenues started flowing in 2015, the plant has supported various projects, including helping a local school and two day-care centres for the elderly and disabled, providing them with things like computers for learning, office equipment, furniture and cooking facilities.
Born and bred in the Northern Cape, Vania understands why it is difficult for micro-enterprises here to be viable. ‘When people start a business here, the money they make today is the money they are going to use to feed themselves tonight,’ she says, describing how vulnerable small businesses can be.
The 10 MW KHEP plant is one of the 96 renewable energy power plants commissioned by the Department of Energy since 2011, as part of its utility-scale Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
Through REI4P, the state has outsourced some of its energy infrastructure needs to the private sector. One of the stipulations in the contract between the state and the private firms is that they will invest a percentage of the revenue they earn from selling power to the grid, into development initiatives in communities living within 50 km of each plant. This work spans the 20-year period of the contract in this public-private partnership.